The SPHN Federated Query System is online!

16 November 2021

Information retrieval systems enabling researchers to query for specific clinical information of patients have so far been limited to individual clinics or single hospitals. With the new Federated Query System (FQS), established in the realm of the Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN), it is now possible to search for fully anonymized clinical information across all five university hospitals, while allowing the hospitals to retain full control over their data.

The aim of the FQS is to allow researchers to assess whether and where patients or patient data potentially suitable for a specific research question exists at Swiss university hospitals. The available information in the system includes demographic data (age and gender), diagnosis (coded in ICD-10), procedures (coded in CHOP), medication (coded in ATC) and lab test (coded in LOINC) and lab results with units (according to UCUM). Under the project lead of the SPHN Data Coordination Center (DCC) and with support of IT-Logix, the clinical partners accomplished to harmonize and standardize anonymized clinical information, and make it available for federated queries via a common front-end.

The FQS enables researchers to verify the feasibility of their project by running simple queries against a subset of clinical data of all five university hospitals. It allows to design and optimize inclusion and exclusion criteria for research protocols without transferring any patient data.

The system relies on the Patient Network Explorer technology of Clinerion, which has been modified according to the SPHN needs. It fully complies with privacy requirements, since only aggregated search results are shared with users and small patient numbers are obfuscated to prevent potential re-identification. The FQS currently contains more than 70 million data elements from over 450’000 patients, who agreed to the further use of their data for research purposes. New data elements will be loaded into the system on a regular basis.

The FQS is accessible for authorized users through the BioMedIT portal (find instructions here).

Eligibility requirements for users are:

  • Their institution has signed an agreement with SIB (currently, all Swiss university hospitals are part of this network, additional institutions will have the possibility to join at a later time point)
  • Users have a SWITCH edu-ID account with their employing institution linked in their profile (though SWITCHaai). As authentication through SWITCHaai via SWITCH edu-ID is unfortunately not currently possible for USB employees, USB researchers will have access to the SPHN FQS from the beginning of 2022.
  • Each user has individually agreed to abide by the FQS Acceptable Use Policy

To learn more about the FQS, visit the FQS webpage or watch our demo on the SPHN YouTube channel.

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